Brazil: Lula wants evangelicals to be “partners” of his government

By Javier Bolaños |
Lula da Silva, President of Brazil
Brazil's then-presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva looks on during a meeting with civil society personalities at Hotel Gran Mercure on September 27, 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. | Rodrigo Paiva/Getty Images

In 2018, conservative Jair Bolsonaro received considerable support from the evangelical community in Brazil, allowing him to win the presidency. For several years now, evangelicals have emerged as a powerful political force, whose political representatives occupy about 40% of the lower house in the country. Therefore, current Brazilian president, Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, knows that for his party to remain in power, he must establish ties with evangelicals.

Andrew Rossati, a Rio de Janeiro-based journalist for the well-known business and finance media Bloomberg, has analyzed the political dynamics in Brazil and spoke about it on last Thursday's episode of the podcast Bloomberg Daybreak Latin America.

“In Brazil, as in the rest of Latin America, evangelicals are the fastest growing religious group…,” Rossati said. “The difference is that they are very, very, very politically organized and have become a political force that has an effect on social laws. But also in recent years they are very unified on the right.”

When asked whether President Lula's leftist Workers' Party (PT) can be successful in attracting evangelical support, Rossati stated that “in the short or medium term, it is very difficult for Lula to penetrate those groups again, because in the last decade, his party has been involved in many cases of corruption.”

Lula himself was imprisoned for several years on corruption charges. But according to the Bloomberg journalist, possibly an even bigger challenge for Lula is that his party is strongly associated with progressive causes, such as abortion and marriage equality.

“It is very difficult for an ordinary evangelical not to see that as a blockade towards them. In other words, the Workers' Party is trying to trace different paths, but anything is going to be long-term for the PT,” said Rossati.

Perhaps the most significant effort the reporter highlighted is Lula's strategy of engaging with the evangelical churches. “It is called 'partnerships' [collaborations] or making them a kind of ambassadors of the government to attract and promote its social programs. The evangelical community in Brazil is mostly associated with the poor and urban people. In theory, those Lula government programs, to help families, give them subsidies for houses, can help them a lot.”

However, the Rossati believes that very few pastors and members of the evangelical church are participating in these strategic alliances with the current government, which highlights the great challenge that the president faces in the coming months and years.

Lula da Silva defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro on October 30, 2022 by a very narrow margin to secure his return to the Presidency of Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America, after 12 years. The veteran politician's success was celebrated by figures on the Latin American left.

Originally published on Diario Cristiano, Christian Daily International's Spanish edition.